At the Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York center in Flushing, Queens, men comb through newspapers and sip coffee at long cafeteria tables under fluorescent lights. Normally Swedish pop wouldn’t fit in such a scene, but there it is — the sound of Abba in the distance. Follow it. Behind a partition are women, bedecked in sequins, gliding across a checkered floor to “Dancing Queen.”
This is the KCS Senior Dance Team, a group made up of spry and glamorous women in their 60s, 70s and 80s. They can dance, they can jive and, yes, they are having the time of their lives.
“We use famous music because then everyone knows and it’s easy to feel it,” Kyung Ok Lee, who bashfully referred to herself as the group’s leader, said. “We have some Korean traditional music, American music and K-pop. The music is healing.”
And so is the dancing. Their numbers are heavy on footwork, and the steps, while basic, are knitted together with precision. At first, for the dancer Cha Kyung Yoon, 79, the memorization was demanding. “Thank God for the smartphone,” she said, speaking, like some of the other dancers, with the help of an interpreter. “I practice at my home. While I am dancing, I am very focused. I listen to the music and the lyrics. I also think about my movement: How can I dance beautifully? I actually forget that I am aging.”
The dance team, which began around 30 years ago, rehearses twice a week. Over the past few months, they have been preparing for the organization’s gala on Nov. 8 at Ziegfeld Ballroom in Manhattan. Their performance will feature several numbers including the debut of “Gloria,” set to the 1982 Laura Branigan song.
They start off in two horizontal rows, crossing a foot in front of the other while their arms swoop down from side to side. Their hips twist; cha-cha-cha steps pivot them forward and back. They swim through the air, and later they spin, raising their arms high, and stopping with an emphatic clap. There are no pauses. At the end, they shout, “Gloria!” And then they usually giggle.